Your Guide to Licences and Driving Vans

17/03/20229 minutes read

If you’re wondering ‘can I drive a van with my driving licence?’, you wouldn’t be alone. Most people are aware that there are other types of driving licence that become a requirement for larger vehicles, but exactly where the lines are drawn can be confusing. What’s more, different rules can apply to different people depending on when they first obtained their driver’s licence.


But not to worry. If you’re trying to figure out if you’re legal to drive a van, we’re here to explain all.



Can I drive a van on my car licence?

If you passed your test using a car, you’ll have what’s known as a full category B licence. This allows you to drive a wide variety of vehicles, but it does come with its limitations. You’ll need to be aware of gross vehicle weight (GVW) to determine if you’re legal to drive a van.


Gross vehicle weight (GVW)

GVW is the total weight of a given van plus the maximum weight it can carry in cargo if it were full. Commercial vehicles vary in their GVW, depending on their overall size and specification. Generally, many small vans will come in under 2,500kg while the largest commercial vans tend to top out at 3,500kg.


That’s mostly good news, as it’s a GVW of 3,500kg (or 3.5 tonnes) that applies to the category B licence – the typical licence given for passing a test in a car.


In essence, that means you can drive the majority of vans on what’s sometimes known as a ‘car licence’. You’ll just need to be sure its gross weight comes in at or under the 3,500kg figure.


How can I tell the GVW of a van?

The GVW is usually shown on a sticker or a metal plate, with the latter being the reason GWV is sometimes referred to as the van’s ‘plated weight’. In most cases, you’ll see the GVW displayed on the inside door of the driver or passenger side of the van. If not, it’s usually underneath the bonnet.



What are the Category B licence changes?

If you hold a Category B licence, you’re entitled to drive vehicles weighing up to 3.5 tonnes maximum authorized mass (MAM), with up to eight passenger seats.

However, in May 2018, the UK law changed slightly to allow Category B licence-holders to drive heavier vehicles if they are powered by alternative fuels. Alternatively-fuelled vehicles (AFV) used for the transportation of goods and weighing no more than 4.5 tonnes now fall under a category B licence.


This means that AFV are now a more viable option for businesses, and businesses can operate heavier AFV without the need for their drivers to have a C1 driving licence. This change is part of the government’s commitment to greener vehicles. For the automotive industry, this law will progressively push us towards using greener vehicles.



Why can’t I drive a van on my licence?

If you find a van you need to use exceeds the 3,500kg limit and you’re not legal to drive it; this is simply a matter of safety. Larger and heavier vehicles get increasingly difficult to manoeuvre and keep under control, and there naturally reaches a point where additional training is required for you to be able to do so safely. Thankfully, the majority of commercial vans come in at 3,500kg or below, so most licence holders should find they don’t have a problem. If you’re wondering ‘can I drive a 3.5 tonne van with my licence’, the answer is almost always yes.



How do I get above a 3.5 tonne licence?

If the nature of your work means you will need to drive vans beyond the 3,500kg GVW limit, and you didn’t get your licence before 1st January 1997 (more on that below) – all is not lost. You simply need to get yourself a category C licence.

This will involve additional training and testing, just like that you did to get your initial category B licence. You’ll just need to find your feet in larger and heavier vehicles, before proving your ability.



Can I tow a trailer on my licence?

Things get a little more complicated when it comes to trailers. Every standard category B licence will allow you to tow a trailer provided its maximum authorized mass – the trailer’s own weight plus the limit for its cargo – doesn’t exceed 750kg. The rule around Category B vans continues to apply to both the van and trailer together, though. Simply put, that means the gross total/combination weight (GTW/GCW) of the two still cannot exceed the 3,500kg limit. In this case, using a standard 750kg unbraked trailer would mean your van cannot exceed a GVW of 2,750kg on the van alone.


If you do want to tow a trailer that exceeds 750kg, you’ll need to apply and pass the tests for a licence in a category known as ‘B+E’.



What if I passed my test before 1st January 1997?

If you’ve had your driver’s licence for more than a couple of decades, you may fall under what’s sometimes known as ‘grandfather rights’. In practice, this means a different set of rules apply for those passing before 1st January 1997 – because they received a category C1 licence alongside the standard category B.


If this applies to you, you’ll be legal to drive a van with a GVW of up to 7,500kg, or up to a combined weight of 8,250kg if a trailer is included.


How can I check if this applies to me?

If it has been roughly two and a half decades since you obtained a licence, nobody would blame you for forgetting the particular date you’d got it. Thankfully, it’s easy to check. Take a look at the back of your licence card and see if the C1 category is shown alongside the B. If so, you’re able to drive vans weighing more than the 3,500kg limit.



Where can I get commercial vehicles for my business?

At Northgate Vehicle Hire, we’re pleased to provide businesses with an excellent selection of commercial vans that can be driven on category B licences. By growing your fleet with business van hire companies like us, you can supply your business with all the tools it needs without paying limiting upfront costs and being stuck with assets you don’t want. With hire agreements up to 48 months, you can find us all across the UK from van hire in Glasgow to van hire in Portsmouth. Use our online vehicle finder to see what we’re stocking at the moment, or give the team a call on 0333 0430 001. 

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